American parents have been listening to professional psycho-babblers tell them how to raise children since the late 1960s. I was in graduate school at the time, and my professors thought the babblers were geniuses, sent by some New Age divinity to correct all the egregious wrongs parents had done to children since time immemorial. Children were about to enter a Golden Age in which their opinions would not only be listened to but also taken into consideration, and from an early age. And they would be allowed to express their feelings freely! And parents and teachers were going to tell them how wonderful they were and how everything they did was wonderful and so children would do more and more wonderful things and the Age of Aquarius would dawn and peace and love would fill the universe!
Problem is, it didn’t turn out quite the way it was planned. Indeed, parents and teachers did all the “right” things. In fact, nearly everything they did was pretty much the opposite of the way previous generations of parents had done things. The result? Well, let’s just say the Age of Aquarius has yet to dawn.
Child mental health in America, across the demographic spectrum, has declined markedly in the last 50 or so years. Compared with a kid from my generation, today’s child is five to 10 times more likely to become clinically depressed before his or her 16th birthday. And parenting, as it is now termed, has become the single most stressful thing a woman will do in her adult life. Mind you, her great-grandmother probably raised a lot more kids and experienced very little stress. She was, however, able to stress her kids rather effectively.
When are parents – mothers, especially – going to get it? When are they going to wake up to the fact that the babblers have done nothing – and yes, I mean nothing – but damage? In my estimation, the Age of Aquarius will begin when American parents shut the babblers down and return parenting – to borrow from the vernacular of the 1960s – back to the people!
I am a proud member of the last generation of American kids who weren’t allowed to have high self-esteem. When a child back then had an outburst of high self-esteem, his parents told him he was acting too big for his britches, which is what high self-esteem is all about anyway – popping one’s britches.
And yet, we were happier. We may have missed the Aquarian train, but I hear it ran off the tracks sometime around 1975 anyway.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.